Zen and the Art of Canine Maintenance


I figure now is just as good a time as any, to talk about what’s it like to travel with a big, yeller dog, seeing how three weeks ago today we rolled out of St. Louie.

Jean and Libby in NYC

NYC, one week after I left St. Louis.

Being prompt is not my forte.

It’s taken me this long to get into a routine. There are so many different considerations — who eats first, who poops first, how far I have to go for coffee, how far I have to go to find a blade of grass for her to be inclined to pee on, how hot it is, how safe it is, how dog friendly it is, you know, the usual stuff. But I think we’ve got it down.

Rest stops, she gets out first, me second, park in the shade and hurry up — me not her. At hotels and homes, I usually wake up before my iPhone alarm goes off. I foolishly set it thinking I’ll get some writing in at the crack of crack, but I tend to just hit the snooze and roll over. Old habits die hard. From the moment I wiggle my toes under the blanket though, time is of the essence, Lib will want to go out. I miss being able to simply open the back door and say, “Go for it” 

Libby's king size sleeping mat

My yoga mat and Libby’s king-size sleeping mat.

She’s really patient though, she allows me to (a) figure out which city, hotel, or home I’m in, (b) check emails on my phone, which I sleep with (pathetic) and (c) do a few yoga exercises to stretch my crippled back. I brought my mama’s quilt to do them on. This makes me happy.

But before I can traipse down to the horrible continental breakfast and watered-down coffee, I have to take care of her needs. This is a good thing, it makes you accountable to somebody other than yourself.

Elevators were worrisome to her at first. It was that damn, hurling down the elevator shaft to a certain death crack, that tripped her up. She’s cool with it now.

With the heat, I have to get her out of the car and into the house or hotel right away, telling her to stay,  followed by the “no bark” command, which occasionally works, as I trot up and down the stairs to unload. I’ve learned to stop in the cheap motor courts where you can park right at the door. Plus, you meet the nicest people!

Libby and Latin American Motorcycle Association Bikers

EconoLodge, me and the bikers parked right outside our rooms.


Single Brothers Bar, Winston-Salem, NC

Single Brothers Bar, Winston-Salem, NC.

Eating, that’s a whole nother deal. I have to look for places to dine outside, and when it’s 98 degrees, it’s easier to get take-out and head for the comfort of the rattling window air conditioner at the motel. In Winston-Salem, I took Libby out for a drink at the Single Brothers Bar. VERY dog friendly, thanks Mitchell.

Since it is hotter than hell right now, she’s shedding like crazy, so I’ve stopped to vacuum the car a couple of times. It really didn’t do much good. I figure I’ve eaten about as much dog dander as the car grill has eaten bugs on this trip.

Libby Napping

Watching me vacuum from the shade of the car wash stall. She knew it was futile.

Lib and I are pretty scrappy. I’ve only had three situations where I felt like a Castaway in a sea of humanity. In Philly, I needed a bathroom and it was too hot to leave her in the car. I took her right in the stall with me

TD Bank - Dogs Allowed

TD Bank, no stuffed shirts here, dogs allowed in the lobby!downtown, at the National Parks Visitor’s Center.

In NYC, I needed to FAX something, and the line at the FedEx was prohibitive. As luck would have it, I’d passed a bank a block back, advertising their dog-friendliness. They faxed the document for free and even gave Lib a doggie treat.

Hotel and restaurant adventures notwithstanding, I think the best times are when we stay with friends and I get to eat real food and drink real coffee out of real cups. I was EVEN able to leave Libby for an hour to go run errands. She worked her magic on the Dease’s.

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We get up together, we go to bed together. We spoon. Not so pathetic. Libby is my best friend right now. We protect each other and I love her very much. But, when we’re at somebody’s house, as opposed to hotel nights, where I give her carte blanc, she’s relegated to the floor. Poor puppy, she’s gonna need some therapy by the time we get back to St. Louie.

Forced to Behave

Forced to behave.

About Jean Ellen Whatley

Writer. Dreamer. Sometimes schemer. Journalist/memoirist/observer and sometimes constructive irritant. Prisoner of demon muses. Mother to four humans and two dogs. In my spare time, I delete phone numbers of former boyfriends.

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  1. Love the journey. Libby is a good traveling companion and seems so quiet and well behaved. Happy journey.

  2. Alysa S. says:

    This was a great behind-the-scenes look at your trip. I love the yoga on the road idea and understand completely – what a great way to work the kinks out in the morning. I was able to watch the videos (sometimes my poor old computer doesn’t do video, but tonight she’s behaving – yay!) and I love Libby’s tail. I have no idea why I didn’t really pay attention to it in the pictures, but it’s so long – and I love how the tip is a different color than the rest. It’s like a fox tail! Bravo to Libby for learning to brave elevators; she’s much calmer than I am when I go in one. Thanks for sharing the videos and this really cool look at what goes on any given day of your trip. Also, what a cool bank – I love that they’re dog (and it seems, people) friendly!

  3. This is a great post! It takes me back to a time when we drove from Ohio all the way up to the Canadian province of Newfoundland with my sweet girl Bailey in the back seat. The one constant, familiar thing for Bailey was being in the car with us. She was always happiest when she was last out of the car at night and first into the car in the morning. The car was her home–more so than the beds we slept in at night. She was such a wonderful traveling companion.

    Wishing your a Libby a safe journey! Keep us posted on your trip!

  4. What a great story, I’m so glad to finally see that the world is becoming more “dog oriented” now. Even the bank! Looking forward to more of the journey…be safe.

  5. OMG…love the elevator video…maybe you can teach her to push the correct button?? Libby, the Superdog!!!!